Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Red Hook streetcars

A few weeks ago Mikus and I flew to New York City to visit my sister and her husband. It was a packed couple of days, complete with a visit to Central Park and Chelsea. We spent the morning of our last day exploring the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, after which we found ourselves famished and ready for another culinary adventure. On our way in we had noticed a food truck rodeo at the intersection of Flatbush and Eastern Parkway across from the Central Public Library, and so we strolled over to fill up before heading home to pack. The food truck scene in Greenville is just getting started with a couple of food trucks and rumors of more to come, but NYC is teeming with the brightly colored vehicles. After trying out a gyro, empanadas and a variety of other treats we called it, and headed out to Red Hook.

Grand Army Plaza Memorial visible behind two of the food trucks
Named for the red clay soil and geographic location, the point was first settled by Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam in 1636, and named Roode Hoek (in Dutch hoek means point or corner). Fort Defiance was built there during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776, but otherwise the area was rather low-lying, and full of tidal mill ponds. The 1800s brought construction of several ports and by the 1920 Red Hook was the busiest freight port in the world, but as shipping was modernized the area sunk into poverty, and in 1990 Life Magazine named it one of the worst neighborhoods in the US and a crack capital of America. The largest public housing development in Brooklyn (NYCHA Red Hook Houses) is still in Red Hook and houses about 5,000 people, however the area has grown in trendiness in recent years, and now is home to businesses such as IKEA and Fairway Market.

Red Hook is the only spot in NYC facing the Statue of Liberty, as she is looking out to sea
After a stroll in the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden to take in the views of Lady Liberty we crossed over to the Fairway Market, a 52,000 sq. ft. waterfront grocery store. Out in front between the café and the water are old Boston and Norwegian streetcars, which at one point in time were the beginning of someone’s plans to bring streetcar service to the area. After Hurricane Sandy they’ve truly reached the end of their line, and now add yet more character to the Red Hook district.

We were pressed for time and I was flying home, and so I had to pass by the mile-long refrigerated case that contained most of my favorite cheeses from when we lived in the Auvergne region of France (known for their cheese) without purchasing even a tomme. The fresh seafood and exotic fruit also called my name, but I had to be content with only snapping a few pictures. As we exited I promised myself I would return for some serious shopping, as well as dig further into the history of the area. Fairway Market's is quite an amazing story; the building (and surrounding area) was heavily damaged by the 2012 hurricane and the store has only recently reopened, but it is obviously a cornerstone of the Red Hook community and has incredible variety and a dedicated customer base.

One last detour. Some of you might recognize the television show the following scene is from…

Source here
It’s the popular drama “Blue Bloods,” featuring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg among others. An American police/procedural series on CBS, it is filmed on location in NYC. Fans might recognize this house as Police Commissioner Reagan’s home where the family dinners are held – it is in the Bay Ridge neighborhood, and as we cruised past I wondered if the inhabitants tire of the traffic.

The day was over far too quickly and so we packed up and headed to the airport. Luckily our flight home departed as scheduled with no hiccups, and one sleeping toddler later I was emerging in the Greenville humidity to a big hug from Roberts and a sleeping Lauris in the backseat, looking a year older than when I left two days ago.


  1. Where exactly is the house i would love to walk past it

    1. Hi Dora, I can't tell you where exactly in the Bay Ridge neighborhood it was - it was several years ago and I was just a passenger! Sorry I can't be of more help - you probably could ask around, I'll bet the locals could point you right to it!

  2. I can tell you exactly where it is / It is on The best block in Bay Ridge
    Harbor View Terrace across from where I lived (8061 Harbor View Terrace)
    since I was 8 until 1999 then I moved to California
    This brings back the greatest memories and I am so happy that Bay Ridge is back / it feels great to see this /Bernadette Romano

  3. The "Reagan House". Was built by John James Cain in 1927 for his son Judge John Victor Cain. The house was sold in the late 1960's. The whole Cain clan enjoys watching the Blue Blood series!


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